….that’s what I always think of when playing Black against the Catalan. The Catalan is a bold attempt by White to try to win on technique, and the better technical player stands a fair chance of winning.
5…0-0 If you wait this long without taking on c4, then they call anything after this the Closed Catalan. It’s safer, as Black, to wait before making any captures, although there are many sharp ways for Black to play the Catalan.
7.Nbd2 If 7.Na3, then 7…BxNa3!, with the idea of keeping the extra pawn for as long as possible, is strongest and equal.
7…c5 I chickened out here, and knew this move was sorta weak after I played it. 7…b5! where 8.Ne5 can be met by 8…Nd5, and Black already has a slight edge.
10…h6 Played after a record 40 minute think! I afforded myself this luxury as I was strangely half an hour up on the clock at this point. 10…Qe7 is the only move in the DB, played nine times. I considered playing 10…Qe7, but thought 11.Bg5 would be annoying, but Black can equalize in that case with 11…e5.
I wanted to play 10…Nd4, but this fails to 11.NxN QxN, 12.Be3 winning the bishop, so I wanted to play 10…b6 to defend the Bc5, but this is a little ridiculous once you realize that White is basically going to play 11.Rfd1 to stop this anyway. I went so far as to calculate 10…b6, 11.Ne5 (11.Rfd1 is an exchange sac, around +.6 according to Houdini)…Nd4, 12.Qd3 Nd5, but now 13.e3 and 13.Be3 are both +1 for White, which I didn’t know, but there was an awful lot to have to be sure of, so I eventually called it off.
12.Bf4 Houdini likes 12.Be3 e5!? +.3 as best. I was more worried about 12.Nce5, but failed to see that after 12…NxN, 13.NxN Bxf2+, 14.Kxf2 Qc5+ comes 14…Qc5xNe5 (this capture part I missed) – my guess is that he saw it.
13…f6?! This move is a little ridiculous at face value. I play 13…f6 to control e5, because I don’t want to get attacked, but this Be5 is doing nothing and is practically stopping his attack, so why push it away and create weaknesses when I haven’t even finished development? Of course, I had some wild-eyed ideas of playing …Be6, but it took me a while to realize that wasn’t feasible.
15…Rb8? I also considered 15…Rd8, but not until after I moved did I realize that I had just dropped my e6 pawn. Luckily, he didn’t see it, so I hurriedly played …Rd8 on my next move.
16….Rd8 (…Kh8 was an alternative). After playing this move, I realized to my horror, upon his long reflection, that I had missed 17.Nc6?? Luckily, we both saw that this would only get his queen trapped.
17.Nf5. Never saw this, and my initial reaction was to take it, but I saw the line where I could drop a piece 17…exNf5, 18.Bxd5+ Be6?? (…Kh8), 19.Ne3! and now the Bc5 will drop. I have to credit the times I’ve practiced tactics on chesstempo to be able to recognize and calculate this. Funny, it turns out that the tactics ability helps on defense, spotting and side-stepping my opponent’s tactics, more than offensively, since I never had such a position of my own to attack from.
18.Nf5e3, calling off the hounds. 18.Nc4-d6! will win the e6 pawn again after the 18…BxNd6, 19.BxNd5! intermezzo. I felt that when I played 17…Qf8, that I was creating a “chesstempo” position for him, but I never saw the shot OTB, so after spending time decided to play it.
19….BxNe3 Apparently 19…RxRd1, 20.RxR c5 was best, but at this point I realized that it was time to try and draw the game.
26…Qe8 Somehow, I missed 26…Qd6 (because I was looking to play this), and I even wanted to play the better 26…Qd8, but was feeling that time-pressure panic set it. We were both down to two minutes, and Mark accepted my draw proposal once he went under a minute, but it’s not to late to mess this up and lose for Black.
In the quick post-mortem (Alex was driving and wanted to go), we looked at 27.Bd5 Rc8, 28.Rc7 RxR, 29.QxR Qc8?, 30.Qxb6 (I had missed that after 30…Bh3, simply 31.Qc6 or 31.Bc6 wins). So I guess I proved that I can drop a pawn at blitz speed, but did figure out that 29…Qd8! is the accurate, equal move, and also noticed that I had 29…Be6 at my disposal before I got out of there. Oddly enough, after 29…Bh3! first, then 30.RxRc8 (or 30.Qc2, and then I can force this sequence by trading rooks on c7) QxRc8 would force the trade off queens, leaving an equal position with only bishops.
My conclusions of this game are that I need to seriously consider my chances for grabbing initiative: 7…b5! and 10…Qe7 come to mind. Also, I need to improve at pruning out useless variations such as looking at 10…b6. Clock-management will also be key going forward. I feel I am playing at a higher level these days than say last year, but it’s slowly starting to come around. I think the biggest thing that I did last year was to try and improve my blindfold/calculation, but it’s taken a while for that to kick in in terms of fitting it into the rest of my game. If it helps me most of the time on defense then that is fine, as chess is mostly about defending! Every move in chess is like a scientific research-paper where you have to defend your hypothesis.